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  Updated May 8, 2020

COVID-19: Global Implications and Responses

Congressional interest in the global implications of
pandemics and the novel coronavirus pandemic is high,
with over 50 pieces of related legislation introduced in the
116th Congress to date (see CRS Report R46319, Novel
Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19): Q&A on Global
Implications and Responses).The virus, which is believed to
have started in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, is now named
severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-
CoV-2) and is known by the disease it causes, coronavirus
disease 2019 (COVID-19). The virus has spread across the
globe and is now concentrated in the United States and
Europe (Figure 1). As of May 7, 2020, the World Health
Organization (WHO) estimated that 3.6 million people had
contracted the disease, with over 250,000 deaths. WHO
declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of
International Concern (PHEIC) on January 30 and labeled it
a pandemic on March 11.
TIhe Vi,.um

Coronaviruses are a large family of zoonotic viruses-
viruses transmissible between animals and humans-that
can cause illness ranging from the common cold to more
severe diseases such as Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome
(MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The most common symptoms among confirmed COVID-19
patients include dry cough, shortness of breath, and fever.
Data suggest that older adults and those with preexisting

medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart and
lung disease, cancer, and diabetes) are more likely to be
severely sickened or die from COVID-19.
Although more than 3.5 million COVID-19 cases have been
confirmed globally, many health experts suspect the true
case count is significantly higher due to asymptomatic cases
and insufficient diagnostic testing in some countries.
Globally, roughly 45% of reported cases and 59% of
reported deaths were in Europe. The United States
accounted for 32% of reported cases and 26% of reported
deaths worldwide.
While current diagnostic supplies are insufficient to meet
global demand, scientists are creating tests that are cheaper,
more easily administered, and provide faster diagnosis.
Several have been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration and other global regulatory bodies. No
specific treatments or vaccines for COVID-19 exist. As of
May 7, roughly 200 COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines
were in development globally, including 123 candidate
vaccines. Through Operation Warp Speed, the Trump
Administration has identified 14 candidate vaccines for
accelerated development. Globally, at least eight groups
have launched safety trials of vaccine candidates, including
in the United States, the United Kingdom, and China. Some
hope that a COVID-19 vaccine would be available by fall
2020, though experts caution sufficient supplies of the
vaccines will not likely meet global need for several years.

Figure I. Number of Confirmed COVID- 19 Cases Reported in the Past Seven Days (May I-May 7, 2020)

Source: WHO, CO VID-I 9 Situation Report - 108, May 7, 2020.

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